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Help with mic placement - piano lid off
Old 13th October 2019
Here for the gear

Help with mic placement - piano lid off

Hi everyone, this is my first post here. I am in need of some advice from all the amazing wealth of experience on this forum. Undertaking a recording project in a pretty live hall, involving piano (solo) and orchestra. Because of a bunch or artistic reasons I am considering taking the lid off the piano. I have only done one recording that way and I didn't like the sound of the piano at all. That recording was captured by one of the best engineers in England, so it was not for lack of experience. I am trying to figure out whether I really want the lid off, but in the meantime I am trying to do some test recordings with my own equipment or whatever I can find, so that I can experiment with the lid off and see whether i can find an acceptable sound and stereo image from it without the lid.

The hall is tall, vibrant but not overpowering. The piano is Steinway D (NY). I have some mics I can use for test purposes, including Schoeps MK2 (omni pair), beyer MC930 (cardioid pair), AKG C414 old vintage, (I think we have a pair of those), TLM 103 pair, THE BS3D binaural sphere, TLM 170.

The goal is to try different mics and placements including height and distance from the piano soundboard upwards, to hear whether an acceptable sound can be found for this recording.

If anybody has any ideas it would be very helpful. My test recordings would be going into a mixpre10M, so I have 8 channels simultaneous maximum for comparison purposes.

I am fascinated by recording stereo images. I am a recording classical artist -- I have done several commercial recordings, so I am well aware of what I like and what I don't like in terms of conventional piano placements, phase issues and stereo solutions etc. Most of my projects have been recorded by various labels and engineers, but I have also done some self produced stuff. But the one recording I did without the lid was iffy in sound... this is a real problem for me right now. I would like to find a way to preserve the rich tone colors if at all possible without the lid.

If anyone has any ideas or experience miking a lidless piano it would be very helpful.
Many thanks.
Old 14th October 2019
Lives for gear
More usually the reason for removing a lid could be twofold: in a dual piano-nested, so players are facing one another, concert...often the front piano will have lid removed so it's not a barrier to the rear's projection...while the rear's lid is up and assumed to suffice for both (which it sort of does, but the front piano probably requires support miking (for recording) as well...)

Second reason could be where a piano is dominant as a component instrument in a large ensemble, and it's desirable to lower its level without resorting to short stick ( the latter is usually the least desirable way of achieving that aim, and doesn't work well....just makes it sound constricted and quacky, not necessarily quieter!)

Or it may simply be specified by the composer, for their own reasons ? I always think of a piano with fully open lid as a crude horn or parabolic reflector (with side leaks !) The keyboard side-leak is vital for the player, no question about that ! The tail-end side leak is very handy for recording, it's become one of my favoured locations for placing an AB pair of Omni mics (a la Decca)

So my guess is that without the lid as co-reflector, you're now faced with the soundboard now as the sole radiating surface, and you can thus consider the lidless piano as somewhat akin to a large harp or guitar (minus the resonant sound chamber and sound hole). With its massively larger surface area, you have the option of experimenting with stand/boom height and miking pattern and width/spacing to guide you in mic placement.

There may be existing guidelines for starting locations to mic lidless pianos (and this forum is the prime place to search for these), but experimenting time is going to be your best ally in miking this 'big vertical guitar'

My guess is that the higher you go the more integrated the sound will become, at the expense of losing some bass presence which case a combination of lower and higher mics might help ? It would help if you began with a concept of how differently you want this to sound from a conventional open lid piano, and then go about seeking that sound in your miking.

The problem is, we're so familiar with the lidded piano as a template, and it would be very tempting to try and emulate that with the lidless one....and, what would be the point of that ?

A silent drone would be a great aid in mic placement here
Old 14th October 2019
Lives for gear
jimjazzdad's Avatar
I have recorded lidless grand piano (with orchestra) a couple of times in a smaller wooden church. The conductor, who was also a pianist, specified 'lid off'. The first time was a piece in which the conductor himself played a duet with a clarinet and he was doing a fair bit of string plucking and strumming so it made sense. The second time was with a young pianist playing the Mendelsshon Piano Concerto No 1 - pretty 'straight' too. Both times I had an array of MS + omnis up pretty much over the piano at about 4 - 5 meters. As I recall there was a nice bloom to the piano and no real issues. Both times I had set up spot mics at the tail of the piano but did not end up using them - the room mics did the job. I'll try to find some examples to post.
Old 14th October 2019
Lives for gear
jimjazzdad's Avatar
OK. I dug up one example of a 'topless grand' recorded with a 'boojum/jnorman' array plus NOS at the piano tail (very little of the latter in the mix). Unfortunately I don't have any good session photos, but in this one by the event photographer you can see the main array's stand immediately behind the podium. The mics are out of view at the top of the frame but they are at about 4 meters, boomed directly over the conductors head and aimed down a bit, on axis with the flutes. You can just make out the NOS mics by the violist's forehead. Its a very cramped sanctuary/stage in this wooden church. You didn't say what type of music you are recording, but hopefully this Mendelssohn example is useful.
Attached Thumbnails
Help with mic placement  - piano lid off-52810426_2677152462311513_4280019113297838080_n.jpg  
Attached Files

Topless Grand Example.mp3 (11.12 MB, 223 views)

Old 14th October 2019
Lives for gear

i'd go VERY close with two side-adress mics with a directional pattern in an a/b setting for lows and highs to still get some resonance and early reflections inside the frame of the grand piano - i generally got not much love for piano with the lid off as i consider the lid and how it contributes, shapes and projects sound to be an integral part of the piano and its behaviour yet there are situations which necessitate taking the lid off for functional reasons...
Old 14th October 2019
Lives for gear
didier.brest's Avatar

See two Neumann M 149 at 1'.

Last edited by didier.brest; 15th October 2019 at 07:43 AM..
Old 14th October 2019
No-lid piano concerto. TLM170 in omni as piano spot-mics. Wide-cardioid NOS main-pair (Gefell M950), DPA4006 flanks. Spots were -12dB or softer in the mix.
Attached Thumbnails
Help with mic placement  - piano lid off-48e8721c-fde5-4a8b-902d-57df287c351b.jpg   Help with mic placement  - piano lid off-aec2a99a-f2e2-4e62-b705-9f937992121d.jpg  
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